Israel Seeks Stiffer Punishment for Rabbi Convicted of Inciting Violence Against Palestinians

Yosef Elitzur received a four-month suspended sentence for his inflammatory opinion pieces; state prosecutors want nine to 12 months either in prison or community service. The maximum is five years behind bars

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the Yitzhar settlement in court in 2010.
Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the Yitzhar settlement in court in 2010.Credit: Moti Milrod
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The state has asked a court to impose a more severe penalty on Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, who received a four-month suspended sentence for incitement to violence after encouraging hate crimes against Palestinians amid “the evil that threatens Jews in the Land of Israel.”

Elitzur was also fined 3,000 shekels ($920), but prosecutors said Wednesday that the Central District Court should sentence him to between nine and 12 months in prison. That penalty could also come in the form of community service.

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In February, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court convicted Elitzur of incitement to violence, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, after he wrote two opinion pieces in 2013 when he headed a yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

In the articles, Elitzur referred to hate crimes by Jews against Palestinians following the murder of a Yitzhar resident at nearby Tapuah Junction.

In one piece, he wrote that “the main thing is that a public with a different vision is taking shape, a vision of rulers who represent the Jewish people. This public is taking action against the enemy.

“These actions do not stem from despair, they are the first steps of a new public raising its head. These are the actions of Jews who view the situation soberly.”

In the second article, he wrote that “a growing number of people understand that action must be taken in order to defend themselves in the face of the evil that threatens Jews in the Land of Israel …. Increasing numbers of people understand these actions, feeling that it’s better that there are those who still have a warm heart, burning in opposition to evil and injustice.”

Prosecutors called the articles “clear and explicit words in support of acts of violence against Arabs.” They said the pieces, which were published on the Hakol Hayehudi website, were “planned, arranged and calculated.”

Elitzur, they said, “expressed no remorse and did nothing to amend or moderate his message of incitement.”

In their appeal Wednesday, prosecutors said the rabbi violated “supreme values including human life and public safety,” as well as “the delicate and sensitive fabric of life between two population groups in the complex reality that exists in Israel and Judea and Samaria” – the West Bank.

They noted that Elitzur was among the authors of the Hebrew-language book “The King’s Torah,” which in part explores cases where a Jew may kill a gentile. Also, his computer contained articles with titles such as “It is permitted to rejoice when a mosque burns,” which the prosecutors say reveal Elitzur’s intent in the two opinion pieces.

The indictment was filed after approval by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit following a petition to the High Court of Justice to bring Elitzur to trial. The petition was submitted by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and the Tag Meir Forum.  

Rabbi Noa Sattath, the director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, said the prosecutors’ latest request “sends a forthright Jewish message that Judaism isn’t racism.”

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